Why Overcoming Addiction Is So Difficult

Matt Lillywhite

We need to understand that change won’t happen overnight.


Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

I went to bed at 10.28 pm last night in the hope of being able to sleep relatively early.

But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the thought of watching porn from my head. So I got out of my warm sheets, headed for the bathroom, and relapsed.

Despite the craving of an orgasm, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed of myself for currently battling this addiction.

The truth is that it sucks the life out of me, making me less social with my family & friends, and eliminating any sense of self-worth.

There’s a little voice inside my head, which tells me that even if I manage to stop for a few days, weeks, or months, the addiction will eventually resurface and claim my soul once more. In the words of the poet, Sarah Boswell:

“My demons, though quiet, are never quite silenced. Calm as they may be, they wait patiently for a reason to wake, take an overdue breath, and crawl back to my ear.”

I couldn’t have described it any better myself. We’re always told to stop relapsing and get on with life. But unfortunately, it’s not that simple; we need to understand that meaningful change won’t happen overnight.

So below are a collection of reasons as to why someone may be struggling to overcome an addiction.

Use these insights as a way of understanding their rationale on a psychological level. Because only when you know the underlying cause, can you truly help them to overcome their addiction, and begin creating a happier life.

Addictions Help To Manage Stress.

Since realizing that I had a genuine addiction, I’ve discovered that one of the primary triggers for relapse is continual stress throughout each day.

Working as a freelancer for many companies around the world, receiving phone calls during the early hours of the morning can disrupt my sleep, and raise my stress levels while working.

It sucks.

Research shows that masturbation can relieve anxiety, reduce stress, and boost your mood throughout the day due to hormones created during the process. So as I’m facing continual pressure almost every day, the aim of reducing my stress levels ended up creating an unhealthy addiction.

Addictions Provide A Psychological Reward.

In an ideal world, everyone would be aware of how their actions create negative behaviors, which can cause serious detriment to the quality of their lives. But unfortunately, that is rarely the case.

When somebody engages in a pleasurable activity, a chemical called Dopamine is released, which creates a feeling of reward within the brain. Quoting an article from Scientific American:

“Addictive substances keep the brain so awash in dopamine that it eventually adapts by producing less of the molecule and becoming less responsive to its effects. As a consequence, addicts build up a tolerance to a drug, needing larger and larger amounts to get high.”

For many people, this tolerance results in unhealthy amounts of usage to become satisfied.

Addictions Provide An Escape From Reality.

One of the primary reasons that people can find it hard to quit an addiction is because it serves as a temporary escape from reality. As an example, abusing a substance to find relief from the problems they face, and to feel like they have a way out of their current circumstance.

From my personal experience, the temporary escape from life’s problems feels like bliss. Because even for a few moments, when you aren’t worried about finances or toxic relationships, it can create a sense of hope for the future.

For anyone currently going through an addiction, it’s difficult to stop as the temporary relief from emotional suffering suddenly can be the only thing that gets you through a painful day.

But often, the strategy of temporary escape ends up creating a perpetual loop of problems which eventually spirals out of control. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Overcoming addiction is incredibly difficult. Instead of hoping that an addict will quickly change their habits, a better strategy is to understand the psychology behind the addiction so that you can support them during recovery.

Remember: there should be no shame in admitting your addiction and taking steps (however small) to overcome it. Because once you accept that your circumstances need to change, it’s an opportunity to start over and begin building a better life.

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